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CERTIFIED Food manager information

Food Manager Certification

Per WI Statutes Chapter 254.71 and the adoption of the WI Food Code applicable to all Food Establishments, each licensed food establishment operation must have at least one manager or operator certified in food protection practices.

The operator or manager of an establishment that is new or undergoing a change-of-operator must become certified within 90 days after the business opens. This requirement is applicable with the effective date of the WI Food Code. 12-201.11.

Helpful Documents


Food Manager Applications

What does certification mean?

Certification requires that the food establishment permit holder or manager pass one of four DHS approved exams which tests basic knowledge of food protection practices. Safeguarding patron health is a primary concern of food operations. Food manager certification is Wisconsin's food safety agencies' first level of assurance that operations have a basic understanding of food safety laws and principles.

Does certification apply to all food establishments?

No. Certification is required for most food establishments but not all. Simple food establishments that serve only single service, individual, already pre-wrapped foods from a licensed food distributor or serve/sell only non-potentially hazardous foods are exempt from the certification requirement. Operators of Temporary Restaurants, "Limited" food establishments, non-processing food establishments licensed by DATCP or those DATCP licensed establishments which process only non-potentially hazardous foods are also exempt from this requirement. Call your licensing authority.

Can an operator with more than one food establishment have the same individual as their certified manager at all locations?

No. Each food establishment's location must have its own and unique certified manager.

The Operator's Responsibilities

The operator is required to promptly notify the regulatory authority when the designated certified manager terminates employment with their food establishment and supply the regulatory authority with the name and state certification number of the new certified manager. The current certified manager's certificate must be conspicuously posted on the premises.

The regulatory authority could be an agent local public health department, your DHS Environmental Health Specialist or your DATCP Food Safety Inspector. Contact our office for specific departments or individuals.

How do I obtain certification?

Certification involves:
a) taking and passing a DHS approved exam and
b) applying for state certification.


After the exam is taken and passed, the individual must apply for DHS certification by submitting all of the following:
  • Proof of passing one of the exams by providing a copy of an official written statement of certificate from the testing organization-indicating passage of an examination approved for initial certification.
  • A check or money order made out to the Department of Health Services in the amount of $10.00.
  • A completed State of Wisconsin Food Manager Certification application form.


The operator or designated manager must take one of four state-approved examinations. Locations of these exams are listed in this resource guide. A variety of private and public organizations have been authorized by the testing organizations to administer the approved examinations and teach food manager certification courses. The Division of Public Health only approves the exams and has no control over training courses for initial certification.

Must I take a class in order to pass the exam?

No. The Division of Public Health only requires the passing of an approved examination. An individual's background and knowledge may vary. The type and amount of study and course work are dependent on the individual. However, most examination organizations offer the examination as part of a course on food protection practices.

What is covered on the exam?

The certification exam tests basic knowledge of safe food handling practices and includes but is not limited to:
  1. Food source and storage
  2. Employee Health
  3. Personal Hygiene
  4. Temperature control of potentially hazardous foods
  5. Effective hand washing
  6. HACCP Principles and Practices
  7. Prevention of food borne illness
  8. Equipment cleaning, maintenance, and storage practices
  9. Toxic product use/storage
  10. Manager responsibilities and duties, Etc.

How much will it cost?

Cost of the exam varies with the examination organization that administers it. Cost depends on whether the exam accompanies a text, classroom instruction, or other training aids. For information regarding course/exam cost and schedules, contact one of the organizations listed with this resource guide. No matter who pays for the training, exam or certification, the certificate belongs to the individual person who is certified. The cost of state certification is currently $10.00.

I took and passed this exam a long time ago, can I still apply for WI certification?

Yes, but no more than three years is the time limit for past examination.

Expiration Date

If the WI certification is applied for within 12 months of passing the approved examination, the certificate expires five years from the date of the department's issuance.

If the WI certification is applied for more than 12 months of passing the approved examination, the certificate expires five years from the examination date.

If an individual is applying for reciprocity from another state's certification requirement, the WI certification will expire five years from the date of issuance of the other state's certificate.

What examinations are DHS approved for initial certification?

The following examinations are approved for manager certification:
  • ServSafe (SS) Examination, by the Educational Foundation of the National Restaurant Association
  • TheNational Registry of Food Safety Professionals, Food Safety ManagerCertification Examination
  • National Assessment Institute's (NAI) Certified Professional Food Manager Examination for Experior Assessment, Clearwater, Florida
  • Dietary Manager's Association (DMA) Food Sanitation and Safety Examination from the Certifying Board of Dietary Manager's Association

Where can I get information regarding certification and courses?

  • Food Manager Certification Resource Guide (PDF)
  • For more information regarding certification applications, to submit certification materials or for a complete listing of organization providing certification courses and exams, contact:

    • The Division of Public Health
      Environmental Sanitation Section
      James Kaplanek
      P.O. Box 2659
      Madison WI 53701-2659
      (608) 266-2835, 608-261-8361
      Fax: (608) 267-3241
      kaplajh@dhfs.state.wi.us